Jon Krakauer’s, Into The Wild

My sister and I enjoy the outdoors and undertaking various adventures, especially above the timberline. As a tradition, we get together to make our annual October ascent up to the summit of Mount Whitney. A few Harvest Moons ago and after one of these trips, my sister gave me a book by a relatively unknown author at the time named Jon Krakauer titled Into The Wild. We had just read Krakauer’s book, Into Thin Air, and as I much enjoyed this riveting adventure-documentary, she said that I would enjoy this earlier release. I anticipated an interesting, high-quality adventure story. It was strikingly more than that to me.Krakauer articulates a painfully moving story that avails one not to stop reading. Soon after receiving Into The Wild, I opened to the introduction one afternoon and then noticed the Sun rising of the following day as I closed the back cover. Since, I have read it many times for I find it compelling in that way.What began as an article for Outside magazine is a story about twenty-four year old Christopher McCandless. Chris was a college graduate with an array of uncommon abilities who came from affluent, yet “stifling”, Annandale, Virginia. Immediately after college in the summer of 1990, McCandless traded a seemingly bright future for a “raw transcendent experience” venturing throughout the western United States as a vagabond until his death twenty-eight months later. Ultimately, hunters at a small camp near Mount McKinley in Alaska found his emaciated body.Krakauer begins by relaying the account of an Alaskan man who, as the last known person to see Chris, recollects picking up a hitchhiker in Fairbanks, Alaska, drives the “congenial and well-educated” hitchhiker to his desired location, and then feels perplexed as he watches this young man begin walking down the Stampede Trail near Healy, Alaska. Next, the author relates the brief story of the haunting discovery of McCandless’s body. From there, Krakauer then effectively backtracks to include McCandless’ personal and family history, travels, and stories from people Chris met and “kept [. . .] at arm’s length” during his two-year “odyssey” following his graduation, with honors, from Emory University.The reader accompanies the author as he traverses Chris’s tour de force revealing what must have been for Krakauer, as evident by brave, expository interviews with many people especially Chris’s family, a tenacious, exhaustive, and emotional effort toward research; it is obvious that the author chased down the details “with an interest that bordered on obsession.”As a wilderness-adventure journalist and journeyman mountaineer with extensive backcountry-adventure experiences abroad including Alaska, the author, Krakauer, relates the results of his research well with qualified and sincere insight. In general, many people can perceive wilderness adventurers, usually posthumously, as heroes; otherwise, many people tend to see adventurers as brash, heedless risk-takers. Often, many people mistakenly refer to these “risk-takers” as having a death wish. With this understanding as well as his being intimately apart of the unique and intense mind of the wilderness-adventurer community, the author utilizes a tremendous asset toward understanding the heart and mind of Chris McCandless. With his finger on the pulse of this very complex breed of human being (of good heart), Krakauer confronts the common mistake of those who neatly stereotype McCandless as reckless and arrogant; “a wacko” with a death wish. In agreement or not, the author perspicaciously offers that Chris’s “life hummed with meaning and purpose [. . .] the meaning he wrested from existence lay beyond the comfortable path: McCandless distrusted the value of things that came easily. He demanded much of himself [. . .].”Essentially, Krakauer refreshingly poses hypotheses throughout Into The Wild to the unanswerable question at the end: Did Chris intentionally commit suicide or was this a tragic accidental death? Because McCandless’ situational cause and effect is family based, and with its finality, this story hits a nerve. Indeed, the pleasure or nuisance of Into The Wild is that, because seemingly obvious pieces of Chris’s personality can not fit neatly into a corresponding slot, it normally is difficult for a reader to form conclusive (and possibly self-separating) ideas as well as possibly confronting awkward parallels between events of McCandless’s life and ones own. It is plainly evident by the many forums of correspondence that as this book normally begins as an entertainment, commonly becomes one of an equidistant self-reflection of family relationships and an exploration of personal moral values.Krakauer’s qualifications allow him to recognize insightfully McCandless’s young idealism that greatly contributed toward his death and constructively heads-off dismissive knee-jerk characterizations of Chris, and those like him of the impulse to engage in dangerous activities, without stoking speculative conclusions. The author effectively explores an enigmatic personality and of his reckoning truth. A stirring read even for the armchair adventurer, the author “will leave it to the reader to form his or her own opinion of Chris McCandless” and of his odyssey into the wild.For whatever it’s worth:Concerning reasonable fulminating viewpoints, it is apparent to me to conclude that Chris did not have any desire to commit suicide; he accepted fate’s death (as well as fate’s life) per his constructed parameters, but hoped for rescue from (even if self-created) peril. This became for him necessary to obtain truth [. . .] from God and/or his family and for him there was no other way.

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